Akron’s union employees would receive raises each of the next three years, with potential additional lump-sum payments in two of the years, under a proposed tentative agreement with the city.
The bonuses would be tied to city income tax revenue in 2014 and 2015, which appears to be an unusual approach.
“I don’t know of anybody else that has done that,” said Susan Cave, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League. “A number of [cities] are doing gradual increases — small — over time. That’s about it ... This does sound unique.”
The agreement, reached by Mayor Don Plusquellic and the city unions’ four presidents, has been presented to the executive boards of each union and presented to members at informational meetings. The unions will vote in the next week.
If all four pass the agreement, it would go to Akron City Council for approval.
The agreement includes raises of 2 percent in 2013 and 1 percent in both 2014 and 2015, along with potential bonuses of up to 2 percent in 2014 and 2015. All other parts of the union contracts, including health care coverage, would remain the same under the three-year pact.
“We’re sharing in the ups and downs of the city,” said George Johnson, president of the 470-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). “If the city’s up, we share in it. If the city’s down, we don’t get anything, except the small 1 percent. Something’s better than nothing.”
Neither side was willing to discuss details of the agreement, which was announced last Monday, until it had been shared with members of the four unions: AFSCME, police, fire and the Civil Service Personnel Association (CSPA).
Johnson, who has attended informational meetings for the other unions in addition to his own, said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Nobody said anything negative,” he said. “There was no push back, no overall hard questions and no, ‘What the heck are you guys doing?’ ”
A few union members have grumbled that the raises aren’t enough, but Johnson said he’s pointed out that raises for municipal unions are running between 0 and 2 percent and anything above that is “few and far between.”
Cave concurred that the majority of raises she’s heard about municipalities giving have been under 2 percent.
The tentative agreement between the city and its unions was hashed out in closed-door sessions over the past six weeks that involved only Plusquellic and the union presidents. The union presidents suggested to the city the idea of trying to limit the reach of contract talks to try to reach agreements without involving a third party, which has been the norm over the past three years during the economic downturn.
Asked how much the raises and lump sums would cost the city, Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson said Tuesday that she cannot discuss any details about the agreement until it is voted on by the unions.
Here are details of the tentative agreement, according to information provided to union members:
• The 2013 raise would be given on Dec. 30, 2012.
• The 2014 raise would be given Jan. 5. In January 2015, the amount collected in income taxes from January through June 2014 and July through December 2014 would be compared to the amount collected in the same periods in 2013. The net percentage increase for either six-month period or both — minus the 1 percent already paid to employees — would be the bonus amount paid to each employee based on regular and overtime earnings in 2014. The combined amount of the raise and the bonus could not exceed 3 percent.
• The 2015 raise would be given Jan. 4. The same calculation used in 2014 would be used to determine if bonuses should be given in 2015.
• If a dispute arose about the income tax calculations, the city and four union presidents would meet to try to resolve it. If the disagreement couldn’t be resolved, the arbitration and grievance process would be used.
• The raises each year would be added to union members’ base pay, while the bonuses would not. The bonuses would be pensionable, retroactive to January of that year.
The agreement establishes a Labor Management Health Care Committee with two members of each union that will discuss and make suggestions for how to save on health care costs. The committee, which has already begun meeting, won’t have the authority to make any changes to the union agreements.
Union leaders have said they also want to work together with city leaders on joint efforts, including trying to recoup the local government funds cut back by the state.
Cave, whose group has been vocal in opposing the state cuts to local government funds and other revenue streams that impact municipalities, likes the idea of unions joining in the fight.
“I think that’s a grand idea,” she said. “They need to take a look at how we can get more money back into the local governments.”